It’s Tinkerer Wednesday! Today I’m contemplating the fill port on a West Bend Manufacturing Webalco 17209 liquid-core electric skillet, and wondering where I can get high-temperature silicone heat-transfer oil on the cheap.

Please check your junk drawer and get back to me.

#saladmaster #regalware #lifetime


My Dell XPS 8700 is seventeen years old. Anyone else would have given up on it, but I nursed it along, and it sufficed until the release of Unreal Engine 5. You see, I need UE5. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to use it effectively, but right now I gotta have it.

Prophetically, the old girl gave me a goodbye wave during the cutover procedure – a disk drive failed to mount. The backup was three weeks old. I did a restart. The drive mounted. I pumped it. Crisis averted.

Continue reading “Computerfied”

Washed out!

The dishwasher in our (rented) winter home quit working. We have a long relationship with the owner, and part of the value proposition is that I fix things.

So, I decided to fix the dishwasher. Off we go to YouTube and other informative sources, where I learned the problem could be as simple as a broken wash impeller. It’s right under the wash arm. The repair video makes it look like no big deal. The dishwasher is perhaps forty-years old, although since it’s installed in a vacation home, it probably has less than eight years worth of use on it.

Continue reading “Washed out!”

Plan SSD From Outer Space

If you’re one of the four visitors who read the last post, you’ll know what this is about – and yes, the mission was successful.

I installed Crucial MX500 SSD boot drives in a pair of Lenovo AIO 520S-23IKU computers (2017) and a Samsung 870 EVO drive in a Gateway NV77H23U laptop (2012). On the first attempt, the Samsung went into one of the Lenovo machines, provoking an intermittent failure (No operating system). So I tried the Crucial devices AND I changed my procedure.

Instead of cloning the boot drive using the same machine the SSD was destined for, I used another computer for the task – taking the mechanical drive out and then connecting both old and new drives via USB. Both Crucial drives cloned without incident and I suspect this difference in procedure is responsible for subsequent success installing the Samsung EVO in my geriatric Gateway machine.

Continue reading “Plan SSD From Outer Space”

A Tinker’s Tale

I’ve taken a break from writing these past ten days to attend to infrastructure tasks — computer maintenance, Internet service provider wrangling, a lighting project in the kitchen, a round of watch battery replacements …

Linda and I have a pair of identical 4-year-old Lenovo all-in-one computers that have become unbearably slow for reasons I might be able to diagnose if I was willing to invest a couple hundred hours, which I’m not.

Far better to replace mechanical disk drives with SSD devices, a cheap and fast way to breathe new life into sluggish hardware if said SSD installs trouble-free.

You might say, “John, why don’t you just buy new computers?” Well, then I’d be faced with reinstallation of licensed software in both machines, none of which will migrate. License keys will be unrecognized on the new machines, vendors will decline to refresh keys, I’ll be forced to buy products again, some of the products will only be available as cloud subscriptions …

Continue reading “A Tinker’s Tale”


After refinishing our floors, the metal registers looked shabby, out-of-place, a careless selection made in the haste of building a new house.


Flush-fit red oak vents from Lumber Liquidators. $21 each. Problem solved.


But wait – not so fast. A flooring contractor who’s installed hundreds of these said he’s never tried it on an existing floor; that one needs a tracked plunge saw, which he doesn’t have; and even if he did he wouldn’t take the job, because it’s easy to tear up adjacent boards. “You seem like a handy fellow” he tells me. “Why not do it yourself?”

Continue reading “Floored.”

And then there was light …

I always liked the cornering light feature on my previous two cars, particularly when negotiating the steep drop at the end of our driveway after dark.

It’s not a Mustang option, but my 2014 V6 Pony Edition has (had) amber corner markers in the right place on the bumper.

So, I started shopping for clear aftermarket lenses, and found lots of them for my model. So many, in fact, that I was amazed to learn that nobody was touting their utility as cornering lights.

What, they don’t know what cornering lights are for? Or maybe these things just look cool and don’t shed enough lumens to be useful. I had to find out.

I bought the fixtures on eBay.  Also from eBay, a pair of five-element LED lamps to replace the stock 194 size bulbs. Total cost, less than $22.

There are two ways that I know of to get into the space behind the bumper where the lampholders lurk. Look on YouTube for tutorials, but I can tell you that ingress through the wheel-well liner requires removal of 5 screws, not 3, the job took me 1 hour 20 minutes, not 45 minutes, and I scraped my arms bloody doing it.

After all that, I would have been disappointed if it didn’t work, but it did – kind of.


Yes, the mod lights up the pavement in the right spot, but a road test revealed that the LED bulbs I bought aren’t bright enough to make a difference.

I may experiment with another bulb, maybe these, although they could be too long. Plus, I’m not looking forward to taking the wheel well liner loose and sticking my arms in there again.

Finally, I have to wonder if a brighter bulb might be too hot for the lampholder. OEM cornering lamps only come on when the turn signals are operating, allowing use of a very bright bulb. These are on all the time.

Yeah, yeah … I could wire a latching relay into the turn signal circuit, put in a load resistor for the steady state feed, yada yada yada. I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Here’s an idea – I did my part – somebody try this setup with a hot bulb and let me know how it works out.

Did you try something cool recently? Tell us about it in the comments.


My Waring WMK200 Belgian Waffle Maker quit. No lights, no heat … nothing.

It cost me $50 and it’s just out of warranty. Not cool, Waring. Wait … it IS cool, which is uncool.

Fortunately, I have experience with this issue.

It’s the thermal fuse. Cheap, easy to replace. The same thing happened on my VillaWare waffle iron. I replaced it, and it’s been working for years.

In this case, the fuse is an SEFUSE type SF240E. I bought five on eBay, just now, for $1.01 with free shipping.

You have to take the top half of the appliance apart to get the bottom half apart. The fuse is inside a woven heat jacket, under a clip, on the red wire. Here’s what it looks like.


It’s a half-hour job. That’s $100 an hour. I can live with that.

Did you fix something today? Tell me about it in the comments!

Pedal to the metal

The pedal on our 17-year-old trash compactor came loose yesterday, a consequence of a shoulder screw having worn through sheet metal at the bottom of the drawer.


Only one side had broken out, but both needed reinforcing. I found steel washers in my parts bin, ground the plating off, drilled them out to spec and applied an abrasive disk to the sheet metal.

Since the drawer is galvanized, I worked outside. I also drank a glass of milk before starting, a traditional welder’s precaution against zinc poisoning. I have no idea if it works, but welder’s manuals still advise the practice.

Here’s the repair after dressing with a grinder. I used a DHC 2000 gas torch, oxy-acetylene, a #0 tip and a stick of clothes hanger wire for filler rod.


Mind you, I undertook this project knowing the outcome was uncertain. Unknown alloys, dirty metal, a little too windy outside to be gas welding … blah blah.

But, a lifetime of skills development and the willingness to fix things instead of replacing them has paid off. Even if this project had gone south, I’m still ahead.

You can do this, and things like this. All you have to do is try.

 Are you inspired? Do you have a similar story to tell?

Put it in the comments!

Locked Up

The keyless entry feature on my wife’s 1991 Buick Roadmaster quit working.

“Eh, use the key”, said I.

“Uh, uh, baby. You fix that thing”, she seemed to say.

So, the local car radio and security installer says to me, “300 Dollars, plus tax.”

Checking on eBay, I learn that the device he intends to install is $47. So … $253 labor?

Let’s try something else. A plain-jane remote unlocker from China is $5.98 with free shipping. What the heck, I bought one, and here it is.

Buick Remote

It’s the little box with the red wire. That’s right … $5.98, and four hours labor.

It was a hairy bitch of a job, requiring hours bent over in back of the station wagon, much reading of OEM wiring diagrams, fussing with splice connectors that REFUSED to make contact, repeated testing of circuits with meter and paper clips …

Yes, I made $64 an hour doing it myself, but it was painful, and there was more than one moment where I feared I might fail.

“Why”, you might ask, “is the OEM receiver still connected?”

Because, dear heart, the driver’s door lock solenoid depends on the keyless entry receiver to reverse circuit polarity during lock/unlock cycles. Can you believe it?

Good thing that part of the box works, else I would have needed to add a couple of relays.

The moral of this story is: Don’t feel bad if you take yours to the installer. I almost wish I did.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: